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Canadian bishops decry proposal for to allow physican-assisted suicide

February 26, 2016

"Suicide is not part of health care," the Catholic bishops of Canada say in a response to a government report recommending legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

The government's joint committee report, released February 25, called for a system that would allow physician-assisted suicide by patients undergoing severe suffering-- including psychological suffering. The committee recommended gradually expanding this permission to encompass adolescents who are judged to be "mature minors." Finally the report said that all health-care professionals should be obligated to refer patients for suicides, and all government-funded hospitals should offer assisted suicide.

Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, acting in his role as president of the Canadian bishops' conference, issued a reply on behalf of the Canadian hierarchy. His statement argued that any national policy should be based on protection for every human life and respect for the individual conscience. The statement observed that the joint committee had not considered the effectiveness of palliative care and home care in providing comfort for those who are terminally ill.

The bishops called for a national drive to prevent suicide. Noting that the problem has racial overtones, they observed: "Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth in Canada than for non-aboriginal youth, while suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national Canadian average."

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